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Weston's Animal Control Officer Karen O'Reilly has posted helpful tips, FAQs, and other items of interest regarding Weston's wildlife, farm animals, and house pets.

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Apr 09

Leash Walking During Covid-19; A training and team building opportunity for you and your dog!

Posted on April 9, 2020 at 3:53 PM by Kara Fleming

The temporary order for dogs to be leashed at all times on the trails provides a great opportunity to work on leashed-walk training with your dog. This time can be a terrific benefit to your partnership with your dog! Leash walking gives dog owners an opportunity to work on basic training, provides structure and discipline, and provides great exercise and mental stimulation for your pup.

Practice Recalls
The Whole Dog Journal says, “One good off-leash hike is worth at least 10 on-leash walks around the block!” By far, a solid recall is one of the best things a dog can learn for their safety.
Using a long line which is a 20-50-foot lead (not a retractable leash) work on your dog coming to you promptly when being called. When your dog comes to you, encourage them to sit, then reinforce the good behavior with a yummy treat.
For more tips on training a dog to recall, check out the article from Whole Dog Journal.

Walking in the "Hot Zone"
In dog training, the hot zone is considered the perfect place for your dog be on a walk, which is directly beside you to your left.

Work on rewarding your dog the closer he comes to the hot zone. In the beginning, it may just mean walking with slack in the leash. As time goes on, challenge your dog to come closer and closer until he or she is consistently walking in the hot zone. Also, don’t forget to give a reward for your dog looking up at you! It is a distracting world and maintaining focus on you is a great thing to encourage.

For more tips on training your dog to walk in the hot zone, check out this article from Pet MD.

Sitting When Stopped - the Automatic Sit
Challenge your dog during leash walks to sit when you stop. The goal is for them to sit without being asked as soon as you’ve stopped forward motion and to turn their attention toward you.

This is called the automatic sit. Teaching a dog to automatically sit when stopped will also help reinforce calm interactions with others. When you stop for a chat your dog will have had the positive reinforcement and consistent training to sit rather than becoming excited to greet and possibly jump on others.

For more tips on training your dog the Automatic Sit, see this article from Preventive Vet.

Proper Equipment
Always be sure you are walking your dog with the proper equipment. There are different collar options that are suitable for different dogs and owners. The right combination can make a world of difference to making a leash walk enjoyable.

One option is a harness, which is best for brachycephalic breeds like bull dogs. Others include pinch and choke collars that can be helpful for dogs that have a propensity to pull on the leash. These types of training aides should be researched or a trainer should be consulted before use if you are not familiar with them. And of course, there’s also a good old-fashioned flat collar!

A treat pouch can be a helpful tool so you can quickly reinforce good behavior with a treat.

Clickers can also be a great tool for positive reinforcement. This article for basics of using clicker training for better leash walking.

Once your dog has mastered these skills, try introducing speed changes, turns and test their ability to be consistent in more distracting environments. Good leash walking skills directly translates to better and safer off leash walks! So, you and your dog will be better for off-leash walking when the pandemic ends. 

Remember to maintain at minimum a 6-foot physical distance from others during walks and to not let your dog approach others. Be safe and have fun!